Of the original 13, Stalker is amongst the most popular. He was a force in the comics, he did things in the original Cartoon mini-series, and he’s also one of the top 3 figures of the first year of G.I. Joe, where it usually just comes down to personal taste if you like him more than Rock ‘N Roll or Flash.
Stalker’s a very striking figure, he’s got the camouflage outfit, the beret and moustache, which separate him from the rest of the early Joes. While he’s constructed out of a pretty common recipe, he was given a camouflage pattern that was unique to him, plus he was also cast in the light green only two other figures were cast in, in 1982. I’ve always wished that the colouring used on Stalker, Zap and Steeler was the main colouring for the 1982 series, it’s more eye-catching, and always seemed a little more realistic to me, not for any actual military reasoning, it’s more the fact it’s a colour of clothing I’d seen in person. In regards to the use of this colour on Stalker, I’ve noticed a few shading variations amongst the Stalkers I own, and that makes a lot of sense, because this was a figure that was in production for about 4 years (82-84 in the US, 85 and 86 in the UK and Japan).
This figure has always screamed “squad leader” to me. Sure the media portrayals have helped, but the figure itself just has a little extra sense of competency to me. The camouflage outfit, while everyone else is wearing plain gear, always stuck out to me. I really like the Stalker head sculpt, too. It’s unique with the beret, and the moustache looks quite smart, and was a fashionable form a facial hair amongst black men in the late 70s and early 80s.
Stalker’s gun is a pretty nice one, the design is solid, and the handle wasn’t too much of a thumb killer. It’s referred to as a “M-32 Pulverizer”, which doesn’t exist, but Stalker’s gun isn’t fictional. I’d remember doing a google search on it once, and found the real life gun it was based on, but of course didn’t save it. Later on I wound up with a scan of a gun magazine from a long time ago where it showed the Danish “Madsen M-50” Submachine gun, which looked just like Stalker’s gun. It could be purchased for $85! While I’m in no way a gun nut, I do quite enjoy the fact that a lot of the G.I. Joe weapons were based off of real designs.
He was also the first African American character, which is notable, because he wasn’t a token, he was portrayed as the leader of missions a lot of the time. G.I. Joe handled the diversity of it’s characters pretty well, it existed, but it wasn’t something any attention was diverted to. Releasing a black character every year was obviously a checkmark Hasbro had on their yearly list, I’m pretty sure they also had a check mark for “Good guy wearing a mask”.
Nowadays there’s such a push for the appearance of inclusion, that quality has become one of the things that’s really taken a back seat. This push has highlighted one of the great aspects of G.I. Joe to me, in that the inclusion existed, but it wasn’t done as a way to get a pat on the back. To me it appears more as a natural extension of the fact that members of every colour and creed wind up in the American War Machine.
The team aspect of the 1982 figures is one thing that I feel is quite important to the figures as a whole, and my personal tastes when choosing figures for photographs, so because of this I’ve often toyed around with the idea of the classic 82 figures as being the Joe team, with the 83-84 characters being a separate team with objectives going after specified terrorists (IE bad guys without the COBRA Emblem, like Zartan or Destro.) It’s one of those things where I don’t actually have the motivation to extrapolate on, and the online G.I. Joe realm, has moved past the days of serialized Dio Stories. I think the death of Dio Stories, probably has something to do with fact that nowadays there’s various outlets for G.I. Joe photography, which wasn’t so much the case in 2002. When anybody can take a picture and post it within seconds, the idea of going to the amount of work for a Dio Story is pretty laughable.
However the death of Dio Stories, also led to a demise in people having hyper detailed internal universes. In some ways there’s nothing about that I miss, as a lot of those were just action movie plots with a G.I. Joe filter applied, but at the same time there’d always be some interesting ideas, and it was also a topic that people would get really excited about and share there own. A little creative conversation is a lot more interesting to me, than learning about people driving around attempting to buy action figures.
Though, if I were to follow up that separate Commando units, idea; the Joe team is still commanded by Hawk, who is groomed for future greatness, so he’s been given the best soldiers and sexiest and most impressive enemy to target. Being the man to take down COBRA Commander, and his organization is more impressive copy than taking down some crackpot wearing facepaint and a belly shirt. Because of this, Stalker is Hawk’s field commander, since he knows the tricks to get things done, yet is still a consummate professional. So if things go bad, Stalker knows the proper way to handle them with the least negative press.
I think both the first story with the Oktober Guard, and the Borovia storyline in the comic book were important aspects in developing that part of the Stalker character in my mind. He was portrayed as a professional, so that always stuck with me more than the Gang Lord or Vietnam War vet aspect of the character.